Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles In April of 1962, anti-Castro Cuban exiles staged an invasion at Cuba's Bay of Pigs. The CIA, who was behind the three-day operation, would come to consider it one of the most colossal blunders in their entire history. How bad did it go? Well, let's just say that Che Guevara himself is reputed to have thanked an American government official for enabling it. Today, we're going to recount some of the most insane facts about the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Before we get started, be sure to subscribe to the Weird History Channel. After that, be a good Patsy by leaving a comment and letting us know what intelligence operations you would like to hear more about. OK, now we go to Cuba. In 1973, E. Howard Hunt stood before a senate committee investigating the Watergate break-in and said, "I cannot escape the feeling that the country is punishing me for doing the very things it trained and directed me to." Do what Hunt didn't say was that those things included some seriously shady stuff. Hunt joined the CIA in 1949 and quickly rose through the ranks. In 1954, he helped overthrow the Arbenz regime in Mexico. By 1960, he was helping recruit Cuban exiles willing to serve in a provisional government set up to take control of the government after the defeat of Castro. This would lead directly to Hunt's eventual involvement in the Bay of Pigs. Though he wouldn't officially resign until 1970, Hunt's career with the CIA was effectively over after the failed invasion. He would quickly fall in with the players in the Nixon White House and became a key figure in the Watergate scandal. Seeking to give themselves plausible deniability as to involvement in the invasion, the CIA sought to launch the invasion from Nicaragua. To this end, they approached president and de facto dictator of the country, Louis Somoza. Nervous that he would face repercussions at the hands of international entities like the United Nations, he was reluctant. Determined to get their way, the CIA eventually bribed Somoza into agreeing for the tidy sum of $10 million. Similarly, the CIA had helped quash an attempted coup in Guatemala against a pro-US government. They held a great deal of influence there and used the country as a staging grounds for the operation. The American planes that came to support the ground troops during the invasion had been disguised as Cuban planes. This is so the Cubans wouldn't shoot them down. Unfortunately, the invasion force was so disorganized and ill-informed that they thought the American planes were actual Cuban planes and shot at their own air support. [GUNFIRE] [INDECIPHERABLE RADIO CHATTER] It's difficult to start a revolution without the support of the locals. The CIA, though their director denied it, was relying on a popular uprising to break out against Castro as part of their plan. They even convinced the US military that such a revolt was likely in the wake of an invasion. Unfortunately, the Bay of Pigs was in a geographically remote area with a low population. Without a wide-ranging propaganda campaign to spread the word, most Cubans would have no way to find out an invasion had even occurred. That campaign never came. Complicating matters even further, Castro had thousands of political dissidents arrested mere days before the invasion. With those fighters out of the picture, the chances of an insurrection fell precipitously. Even worse, the timing of the arrest suggested Castro knew the invasion was coming days in advance. It has been suggested by some that the only way to explain the spectacular failure of the Bay of Pigs is to assume failure was what the CIA wanted all along. But why would the CIA want the invasion to fail? Well, the agents in command of the operation didn't believe Castro could be overthrown without a full-scale US invasion. This theory holds that the agency sought to manipulate President Kennedy into ordering that larger invasion by arranging for the smaller invasion force of exiles to fail sooner rather than later. After the invasion failed, President Kennedy ordered a military review of the operation to figure out what had gone so wrong. That report, which would remain classified for decades, concluded that both Cuba and the USSR knew of the invasion plan long before it occurred. In fact, the review determined that the communists knew the plan before the rank-and-file members of the invasion force did. This implies that someone higher up in the chain of command must have leaked the information. The report further concluded that Allen Dulles, then head of the CIA, knew that the Cubans and Russians knew of the plan, but let it go ahead anyway. This is often cited as further evidence that the agency wanted the invasion to fail. [SPEAKING SPANISH] [CHEERING AND APPLAUSE] On April 15, 1961, the CIA sent several B-26 bombers to raid Cuban airfields with the intent of dealing a blow to Castro's Air Force. Painted to look like Cuban military planes, the aircraft eventually landed in Key West, Florida. Their pilots presented themselves as defectors who stole the planes of their own accord and flew them during the attacks. Of course, as we've already established, Castro knew the invasion was coming. To protect his aircraft, he had them scattered throughout the country. The vast majority of the planes were unharmed, and the damage was minimal. This failure meant that Castro would be able to attack planes providing air cover for the invasion force. Alarmed by such a possibility, the Kennedy administration refused to provide any such air support. There will not be under any conditions an intervention in Cuba by United States Armed Forces. This government will do everything it possibly can, and I think it can meet its responsibilities to make sure that there are no Americans involved in any action inside Cuba. Both American military personnel and civilians were involved in the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the CIA spent decades trying to cover up their deaths. Take the story of Thomas Pete Ray. He was a member of the Alabama Air National Guard, and he specialized in flying the same B-26s that Castro's Air Force mainly used. The CIA needed pilots like Ray, so he was recruited along with several of his fellow guardsmen and sent to a staging ground in Nicaragua to prepare. By April 19, 1961, the invasion was in dire straits. Ray and his fellow pilots were told they could help the invasion force by attacking sites near the Bay of Pigs, but if they were captured or killed they would be disavowed as mercenaries. They went anyway. While conducting a strafing run near the invasion landing site, Ray was shot down. Miraculously, both he and his flight engineer, a man named Leo Baker, survived the crash. However, they were quickly caught and killed by the Cuban militia. Baker was buried in a Cuban cemetery. Ray, who was Caucasian and whose presence supported the notion of American involvement in the invasion, was embalmed and placed in a freezer until 1979. His remains were eventually returned to his daughter. The families of both men were told their fates but also told to keep the information secret. It wouldn't be until 1988 that the CIA would finally acknowledge their connection to Ray and his fellow lost airmen. All of them would receive the distinguished Intelligence Cross, which is the highest award the CIA can bestow. The Bay of Pigs has been reexamined repeatedly over the decades since it occurred. One of the interesting facts that has been uncovered is that several units of US Marines were apparently in the general vicinity of the invasion site. Some analysts have suggested that this marine presence was part of the CIA's plan to draw Kennedy into a larger invasion. If that was the case, it didn't work. When the administration refused air support for the operation, they also told the Marines to stand down. One marine who was part of that force recalled that explosions were already going off in the distance when they received that order. The Marines didn't have the numbers to repel the 60,000 Cuban troops that they would have faced. It's likely that if Kennedy hadn't held them out of the Bay of Pigs, many of them would have been captured or killed. The buck stops with the president, and John F. Kennedy decided to take public responsibility for the Bay of Pigs Invasion and its failure. Behind the scenes, though, Kennedy blamed the CIA and felt they had misled him about the mission. He also felt that they were doing their best to wash their hands of the disaster. A few months later Allen Dulles and several other ranking members of the CIA were dismissed or allowed to resign. Dulles' role in the Bay of Pigs remains mysterious. Many accounts hold that he was fully aware of and in control of the situation, but more recent reports have suggested that Dulles may have been deteriorating mentally during the planning stages. In an unusual move, he had delegated the tasks of organizing the invasion and keeping the White House informed to a subordinate. He is also alleged to have missed important meetings and displayed odd and eccentric behavior in the course of his duties. With the Cubans having advanced notice of the invasion, the US Marines being held out of the battle, and the lack of air support, you'd think the Cuban exiles would've been slaughtered. Yet only 118 members of the anti-Castro Cuban invasion force died during the Bay of Pigs. This seems especially incredible when you take into account that the Cubans, with home field advantage and vastly superior numbers, lost 176 members of the military and an estimated 500 to 4,000 militiamen. Still, nearly 1,200 anti-Castro fighters were captured. After the invasion, Castro found himself with over 1,000 American prisoners. In exchange for their safe return, he demanded expensive industrial machinery and tens of millions of dollars. However, he eventually settled for $53 million worth of food and medical supplies. All of this was provided by private companies. The US government, who still maintained they weren't involved in the invasion, had no official role. The first prisoners returned were 60 seriously injured men who were released in exchange for a payment of $2.5 million. This was quickly followed by a mass release which included almost all of the remaining members of the invasion force. These prisoners were returned to Miami where they were greeted by over 10,000 supporters. However, one bay of pigs exile would remain in a Cuban prison until 1986 before being released and returned. The real reasons behind his quarter century of detention were never explained by the Cuban government and remain a mystery to this very day. No matter how you slice it, the Bay of Pigs was a complete disaster. It embarrassed the United States and emboldened their enemies, bringing the world closer to the brink of nuclear catastrophe. The Cold War lasted for decades, and while it did eventually come to an end, it's hard not to wonder what history would look like if the Bay of Pigs Invasion hadn't been such a half-assed [BLEEP] show. Do you think a successful Bay of Pigs Invasion might have changed history? Let us know in the comments below. And while you're at it, check out some of these other videos from our Weird History.